After the death of the legendary author, journalist, polemicist, and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens, Larry Alex Taunton wrote a book that claimed Hitchens flirted with becoming a Christian while on his death bed and may have even acquired a belief in God. The book was slammed outright as a farce.
In a review of Taunton’s book, “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist,” The Guardian called its claims “meretricious” and said the author was exploiting his relationship with Hitchens to continue the tradition of religion apologists applying false narratives to secular figures after their deaths.
There is so much wrong with this book that one hardly knows where to start. But its fundamental error concerns the nature of intellectual inquiry itself. For Taunton, there is only one such pursuit, and it is unidirectional: if you are interested in morality, you are, axiomatically, interested in religion – which, for a southern evangelical, means the gospels. When Hitchens observes that a child and a piglet are morally different, Taunton says that “this was unambiguous theism, as he well knew”.
Of course, Hitchens knew no such thing. For him, as for any atheist, morality did not need the framework of religion. Philosophy did not depend upon the supernatural, and ethics did not require a godhead to be worth discussing – a discussion that can be traced back at least as far as Socrates in Plato’s Euthyphro.
Taunton’s penchant for intellectual dishonesty aside, it turns out his Christian morals were lacking in the first place. According to a report from Al.com, Taunton resigned from the ministry he founded after “he was confronted about allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with two young women on the ministry staff.”
In a statement posted to the Fixed Point Foundation website, Taunton wrote that he had confessed to his “wife, family, and the board of Fixed Point Foundation” that he engaged in “inappropriate (consensual) behavior outside the bonds of my marriage some time ago.”
“I resigned as the executive director of Fixed Point and have been in marriage and personal counseling as I seek healing and the forgiveness of those I have hurt,” he wrote. “Lauri, strong and full of grace, has demonstrated great love and mercy to me as we have begun rebuilding our lives together. I love Lauri and our children and ask you to pray for her and for them. They deserved much more from me. Out of respect for them and others, I will not discuss any additional details. I attach blame to no one else for the choices I made. I am deeply sorry, and I can only seek the grace and mercy of the God I serve and the many friends who have stood with us through the years.”
The idea that atheists don’t have the same moral clarity as Christians was a common theme in Taunton’s work. In an op-ed for Fox News last year, he wrote that “atheism unquestionably exacerbates the evil in our nature. And if Christianity doesn’t make you good — strictly speaking, from a theological perspective, none of us are — it makes you better than you might otherwise be.”
Throughout a lifetime of professed atheism, Hitchens managed to stick to his principles. Taunton couldn’t even stay faithful to his wife.
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